BERNINI, Gian Lorenzo
(b. 1598, Napoli, d. 1680, Roma)

Tomb of Pope Urban VIII

Golden bronze and marble, figures larger than life-size
Basilica di San Pietro, Vatican

Pope Urban VIII continued the construction of San Pietro begun by Pope Julius II. He commissioned Bernini for the work. As part of the interior design Bernini designated a place for the tomb of his commissioner on the Northern wall of the main apsis.

Bernini transposed Michelangelo's composition of the Medici tombs and thus created the models for the Baroque monumental tombs for long time. In the middle sits the Pope giving benediction, on the two sides are the figures of Charity and Justice. Behind the sarcophage the Death is writing the name of the Pope into the book of eternal memory.

The Tomb of Urban VIII emphasized the pictorial aspects by employing a broad range of materials. The luminous effect of the bronze used to cast the figure of the pope and the sarcophagus surmounted by the image of Death recall the virtuosity of the Baldacchino columns. The design and colour of the gleaming marble surfaces that decorate the niches are reminiscent of those used in the crossing in St Peter's. It is almost as if in designing the pope's tomb, Bernini was concerned to point out the main contributions that Urban had made to St Peter's.